Saturday, 7 December 2013

Breaking News from the San Jose v. MLB Lawsuit

Ahead of next Friday's case management conference, the parties in the San Jose v. MLB lawsuit filed a joint case management statement last night (for earlier coverage of the suit click here).  While the parties laid out their positions on the strategic issues I discussed last month, the biggest piece of news coming out of the filing is that MLB now alleges it has already formally rejected the Oakland Athletics' proposed move to San Jose.  This is the first time that MLB has acknowledged issuing a decision on the matter.

In particular, MLB states in the filing (available here) that Commissioner Bud Selig sent the Athletics a letter on June 17, 2013 (one day before San Jose filed its lawsuit), notifying the team "that he was not satisfied with the club’s relocation proposal."  Consequently, MLB contends in the filing that the city's sole remaining claim for relief is rendered moot, because the league provided a decision within the two-year window allegedly anticipated by the city when it entered into the land option agreement with the Athletics, and thus did not wrongfully interfere with the agreement by unduly delaying its resolution of the matter.

Unfortunately, the court filing does not include a copy of the June 17th letter, so it is unclear how definitively Commissioner Selig rejected the proposed relocation.  It is of course possible, and perhaps even likely, that MLB would reconsider the move in the future.  Meanwhile, MLB states in the filing that it is waiting for the city to agree to an appropriate confidentiality order before supplying it with a copy of the communication, suggesting that the letter will not see the public light of day for quite some time (if ever).  In any event, this is the first indication that MLB has reached a long-awaited decision in its more than four-year consideration of Oakland's proposed move to San Jose.

With respect to the issues to be discussed before Judge Whyte next week, both San Jose and MLB urged the court to retain its supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claim, on the basis that the judge is already familiar with the issues in dispute in the case.  However, while the city argues the court should allow discovery to commence immediately for the claim, MLB asks the court to temporarily stay the claim in deference to the Stand for San Jose, et al., v. City of San Jose litigation proceeding in California state court.  In that case, the plaintiffs are challenging the legality of the city's land option contract with the Athletics on several grounds (both environmental and procedural).  MLB alleges that should the option agreement be declared invalid in the Stand for San Jose litigation, then the city's sole remaining ground for relief in the suit versus MLB (alleging that MLB wrongfully interfered with the option agreement) will be rendered moot.

Meanwhile, San Jose predictably encouraged the court to immediately certify the antitrust issues in the case for appeal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b), while MLB argued that an immediate appeal was unwarranted.  MLB contended that bifurcating the litigation is unwarranted because the remaining state law claim in the case arises out of the same factual relationship as the dismissed claims, and thus that they should all be appealed together upon completion of the district court proceedings.

While it will be interesting to see how Judge Whyte elects to proceed with the remaining claims following the hearing next Friday, the biggest news coming out of yesterday's filing is undoubtedly that MLB now alleges that it has already ruled on Oakland's proposed move to San Jose. 

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